This is a guest article by author John Cherry.

The last time I was in Chicago to see Paul McCartney in concert was for his return to touring in 1989. This was 13 years after my first, and, at that time, only attendance of a McCartney concert. That was during his first U.S. tour after leaving The Beatles, and I saw him in Atlanta at the old Omni arena.

In 1989, I was at the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago to see Paul for two shows. It was very emotional, as it had seemed for many years that Paul might not ever tour again, especially after the tragic assassination of John Lennon in 1980.

While not as emotional, being in Wrigley Field was a unique experience. I had been to the field to see the Cubs play and could understand why their fans go there for the games. It would seem like justice served if the Cubs could finally win a World Series. I doubt any fans would be prouder than the Cubbies supporters.

Arriving by train, I get to Wrigley some 90 minutes before the scheduled start of the show. It is quite warm, but the crowds and working staff seem happy and prepared for a night of great music. I picked up my tickets for both shows and proceeded to my seat that was 18 rows from the stage and about 10 seats from the center of the outfield seating. The stage is set in center field, with the city of Chicago providing a beautiful back drop. Even more exciting is the rooftop seating behind the stage, which is filled up by the start of the show, just as are all of the seats inside the stadium. At just a tick past 8:30, Paul and the band walk on the stage. For about 30 minutes prior to that, the crowd had been entertained by both music and a scrolling screen of pictures, drawings, and videos. This treasure of history and memorabilia contains material from Paul’s career, as a Beatle and solo artist, along with displays of many others that were influences on him or a direct part of his life. Soon after the scroll is making a repeat run, Paul opens the show, wearing a fashionable blue jacket. “Hello Goodbye” is the opening number and the sound is excellent and the crowd is thrilled. Cell and smart phones in large numbers are hoisted up to take pictures of the opening song.  Personally, I find it annoying, which you can read about in my new book that will be released later this year.

Although I think Paul may have flubbed some lyrics at the end, the opening number is overwhelmingly well-received. The second song, “Junior’s Farm” is a bit of a surprise for most of the crowd, but it is nice to see it resurrected from the 1976 tour collection. Following the song, Paul speaks to the crowd for the first time saying “Good Evening Chicago-Welcome to Wrigley Field.” After telling the crowd they may remember the next tune, Paul begins “All My Loving,” which was the song that introduced The Beatles to the world on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. Prior to the next song, Paul acknowledges being at a historical place and expresses pride about becoming part of the current history. He also takes a few moments to “soak it all in,” a practice he started the last several years. A staple from all of Paul’s shows, “Jet” is next and the crowd is happy to join Paul and raise their hands when the title word is sung. The blue jacket comes off after “Jet,” revealing Paul in a white shirt that is already soaked in sweat, along with suspenders. He looks just as trim as he did last year when I saw him in concert in Miami and Charlotte. He tells the crowd that the first time he played in Chicago (with The Beatles) that he only heard the screams, not his music. As expected, there is now screaming from the crowd, bringing a smile to Paul’s face. A well-received “Drive My Car” is the next song, followed by the lesser known and much more recent “Sing the Changes” from the Fireman album “Electric Arguments.” As noted in my book “Paul McCartney’s Solo Music Career 1970-2010“(available at betterthanlennon.com), this is one of my favorite songs, although it perhaps sounds better on the CD. Tonight, Paul adds different lyrics (also used last year) and additional instrumental pieces.

Announcing that the next song is a first for this “On the Run” tour, Paul launches into “The Night Before,” which made its appearance in “Help!,” which was the title of  The Beatles second movie. After the song, Paul holds up his famous Hofner bass, which is then almost dropped after the toss of it to his assistant John Hammel.  Now on guitar, Paul leads into another song from the “Band on the Run” album in “Let Me Roll It.” Following another guitar change, Paul tells the crowd he is now playing the guitar originally used for the Beatle song “Paperback Writer,” which is received with strong applause. He adds a long extra instrumental lead guitar portion to the song, a nice addition and another clear indication of his amazing overall musical abilities.

Moving to the piano, Paul slows the pace a bit with “The Long & Winding Road,” another staple from his tours. Personally, I like the original tour version from 1976 just a bit better, which had a trumpet solo in the middle. The next song is one of my favorites, having used it in my wedding, and is announced by Paul as “for the Wings Fans.” Again from “Band on the Run,” “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” was added to his set last year, and I hope it will remain there. Great song, perfectly done, and well-received. From this high point, the enthusiasm is dampened a bit by “Let ‘Em In.” Although Paul and drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. have a fun time doing the song, it was not my favorite moment from the show.  That was followed by a song that was dropped for awhile from his shows, possibly because of the near screaming portions of it, “Maybe I’m Amazed” was very popular with the crowd, and Paul had no problem pulling off a strong performance of it.

The acoustic portion of the show, mostly with Paul on his own, started with the 1965 Beatle song “I’m Looking Through You,” followed by Paul proudly talking about the recent royal wedding in England with Prince William saying “I Will,” in his wedding vows, which preceded a lovely performance of a song with those same words as the title. A huge hit of the night followed in “Blackbird,” one of the several “sing alongs” from the crowd. This high was sobered a bit by “Here Today,” Paul’s touching song written for John Lennon. Paul noted it as what he wished he had said to John before he was killed, and implored the crowd to “say what you feel.”

The sobering moment was changed quickly by Paul performing “Dance Tonight” on the mandolin, along with Abe doing a hilarious dance in the background, when not performing his drumming duties. With an extended “ho-hey-ho” portion, Mrs. Vandebilt (again from “Band on the Run”) kept the crowd enthused. The gathering was then electrified by “Eleanor Rigby,” and even more so when Paul talked about George and started off Harrison’s “Something” with a ukulele given to him by his late bandmate. The enthusiasm stayed quite high for “Band on the Run,” and huge applause greeted its completion, especially from the crowd in the upper deck.

Another song added last year, and a very popular sing a long that Paul encouraged came with the performance of  “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, followed by a very energetic band offering of “Back in the USSR.” After the song, Paul talked of his humbling meeting with Russian officials while there doing a show in Red Square.

“I’ve Got a Feeling” came next, with Rusty and Abe singing what were John Lennon’s portion of the vocals in the original song from the “Let it Be” album. Another speedy instrumental portion was added to the song, as Paul again exhibited his lead guitar capabilities.

While I think some lyrics may have been flubbed, another tribute to John followed with the performing of the combination of The Beatles “A Day in the Life,” and John’s “Give Peace a Chance.” Paul again implored the crowd to sing with him. Back at the piano, long-time favorite “Let it Be” was next, and then the electrifying “Live and Let Die,” complete with stage fireworks and explosions and a stunning fireworks display launched from behind the stage. After the smoke cleared, Paul went to the smaller, colorfully painted piano in front of the stage to launch another huge sing along in “Hey Jude.”

This led into the first encore, starting with “Lady Madonna,” then followed by “Day Tripper.” This led to a bit of dancing by the band, and Paul telling the crowd that they were still going as he quickly jumped into “Get Back” to finish the first encore. The second encore started slower as nearly everyone sang “Yesterday” along with Paul. This was followed by a raucous version of “Helter Skelter,” accented by the roller coasters on the video screen. The show ended with another outstanding staple of “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End.” It was a night I will never forget, from the beautiful Wrigley Field setting to the lady on my row, easily in her 70’s, thanking her two male companions in their 20’s for taking her to the show, and then weeping as she watched the last several songs. Thankfully, I got to return the next night to hear more.

John Cherry is an author. He is probably best known for his two books analyzing the musical career of ex-Beatles member Paul McCartney. Check out Better Than Lennon and Paul McCartney’s Solo Music Career. 

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